Toronto Mayor Rob Ford will be allowed to run in a by-election if he loses his appeal and is forced out of his job.
The judge who vacated Rob Ford’s seat at Toronto city hall clarified his ruling Friday, dropping a phrase that had caused confusion and debate.
"In the final sentence of paragraph 60, the words ‘beyond the current term’ are deleted,” Ontario Superior Court Justice Charles Hackland wrote. “The corrected sentence shall now read: ‘In view of the significant mitigating circumstances surrounding the respondent’s actions, as set out in paragraph 48 of these reasons, I decline to impose any further disqualification from holding office.'"
The decision is another curve ball in a tumultuous week that has shaken city politics. It may force a number of would-be potential contenders - including TTC Chair Karen Stintz, who has said she wouldn’t run against Mr. Ford - to reconsider their options.
Already, there are hints of the platform on which Mr. Ford might contest a by-election.
A new website called respectdemocracy.ca has sprung up, encouraging Torontonians to sign a petition showing their support for Mayor Ford.
An accompanying YouTube video, posted Thursday, features soft piano music playing over pictures of Toronto’s skyline and a Canadian flag as a woman’s voice reminds viewers that almost 400,000 Torontonians elected Mr. Ford in 2010.
“Now, that election has been thrown out because of a politically motivated technical objection over how he raised money for underprivileged kids,” she says. “Mayor Ford gained nothing. The City lost nothing. Not a penny. How is this fair? We elected Mayor Ford to bring respect for taxpayers back to City Hall.”
The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to a message asking about the video and the domain name, which was registered with a private company Tuesday.
Nick Kouvalis, Mr. Ford’s former chief of staff, who has said he expects to help with the mayor’s re-election bid, said Friday that he is not behind the site and video.
However, Mr. Kouvalis re-tweeted what appear to be the first tweets about the campaign, sent Wednesday by the principals of a Toronto-based, Conservative-aligned advertising firm called Indent Communications Ltd.
Dan Robertson, the company’s partner for strategy, was the director of advertising for the federal Conservative party’s successful election campaign in 2011.
“I would never comment on anything I do for any client, hypothetically or otherwise,” Mr. Robertson said by phone Friday when asked if his company is behind the respectdemocracy.ca campaign
Councillor Shelley Carroll said Friday she would “absolutely” consider running and urged other potential candidates to step aside for her.
She cited an angry exchange at city hall – in which Doug Ford, in a comment apparently directed at two councillors, said he would “whip both your asses” – as an example of the sort of politics the city could no longer afford.
“You know what, the time of being coy and being tasteful about this is done,” Ms. Carroll, a former budget chief under David Miller, told reporters.
Asked if she should be the one candidate to oppose Mr. Ford, Ms. Carroll said: “Yes, yes, I am. I think that I could run this city a damn sight better than the current mayor and abide by the law while doing it.”
At issue in Judge Hackland's clarification was whether the judge’s decision until the end of “the current term” meant his own term, which would necessarily end upon his removal from office, or until the next regular election, in the autumn of 2014.
Duelling correspondence released by Mr. Ruby’s office showed the last-ditch arguments offered by the lawyers as the judge weighed the issue.
"We view those words as either being superfluous to your expressed intention or meaning that the current term for this respondent has ended, subject to a suspension of 14 days," Mr. Lenczner wrote. "To put it plainly, if City Council were to hold an election for mayor in 2013, we respectfully submit that the respondent could present himself as a candidate."
But in his own submission, Mr. Ruby argued that the words "the current term" were clear.
"If Mr. Ford wishes to challenge this aspect of your judgment, the proper forum in which to do so is on appeal before the Divisional Court," he wrote. "Should you wish to clarify the meaning of the phrase ‘current term' in para. 60 of your judgement - which we do not think is necessary - we submit that the best way to do so is to insert the date of the end of the term in the judgment, which is December 1, 2014."
Instead the judge opted to amend his ruling, allowing Mr. Ford to run in a by-election, should one occur.
With files from Celia Donnelly and Stephanie Chambers